A Lasting Legacy: the Colin Thiele Quilt

Colin Thiele left a lasting influence on his readers, students, co-workers and friends.  This legacy is uniquely displayed through the incredible tribute of the Colin Thiele Quilt.

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The quilt features 84 designs taken from 20 of Colin Thiele's children books embroidered on cotton squares by the staff and students of schools from all regions of South Australia.

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The School Libraries Branch of the Education Department of South Australia organised the making of the quilt as a retirement gift to Colin Thiele in 1980. 

The project was described in an article of the School Libraries Branch Review in March 1981:

"When the first embroidered piece (crackers on a cat's tail from The Sun on the Stubble) was returned from Myponga Primary there was great excitement in the Branch. From that time on the mailman was mobbed and many Branch workers shared in the delightful task of opening the flood of replies. All were heartened by the response and well wishes that were often included. 

Arranging the squares to create a balanced kaleidoscope effect of colour, style and theme was fun; pinning them on to the backing pieces was not! Sore knees soon gave way to buzzing machines, however, and you could really say the third floor was "humming right along" for a few weeks."

Close-up details of the Colin Thiele Quilt.  Click to view larger images.

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Matching pillowcase to the Colin Thiele Quilt

The quilt was presented to Colin Thiele at a farewell function held on 18th November 1980 at Carclew, North Adelaide.  In his thank you letter, Colin described his pleasure in his unique style:

"For me it was an overwhelming moment to see the children move through the parting crowd and suddenly to realise what it all meant.  I knew nothing of this - you keep a secret well - and it was a little beyond my comprehension.  However the implications slowly sank in, and I was flabbergasted, and deeply moved, and chastened, and reduced utterly to speechlessness and humility.

The thought of all those teachers and librarians and mums - and most of all, these children in hundreds of schools - labouring like that for me almost brings tears to my eyes.  I shall treasure the quilt - and, even more, the thought of all those labours under your guidance - all my life.

Rhonnie and I shall never forget what the librarians and their associates in this state have done for us.  When the pressure is off I'll almost get the literary 'bends' and write paralysed prose. But at least I'll sleep warm now!"

A Lasting Legacy: the Colin Thiele Quilt